GSA offers cash for ideas to reduce federal travel costs

Tuesday - 2/18/2014, 10:11am EST

The General Services Administration is offering $35,000 to the winner of a competition to improve how the government mines and takes advantage of federal travel data.

GSA posted a competition to the Challenge.gov platform Feb. 14 asking for a technology-based approach to identify ways for the agency to reduce travel costs. Once it's proved at GSA, the developer must be able to provide it to all other agencies.

"This tool is intended to show agencies where and how they can save money on federal travel," the Federal Register notice stated. "The tool is not intended to publicly display any agency's travel data and users will need to log in via a certified username and password to interact with the tool. One of the key purposes of the tool will be to provide agencies with visibility into their travel spending and recommendations for cost-savings behaviors. In addition, the tool will enhance internal transparency and hold agencies accountable for their spending — steps which help to save money for American taxpayers."

Additionally, GSA wants developers to recommend ways for agencies to improve their travel data or suggest areas where the information is missing that could be helpful to understanding travel spending.

"The purpose for this information is to gain an understanding of what the government could do with additional data elements, if those data elements were to be collected by agencies," the notice stated. "This will help increase awareness of needed improvements in data collection, and further the goal of leading greater transparency into government spending."

The tool should display travel data to highlight where the agency is spending money, and emphasize primary categories or cost drivers where agencies can reduce travel costs compared to appropriate government and industry benchmarks.

GSA will provide developers with sample federal data. The agency also encourages competitors to be creative in using other data sets as long as they are sourced properly.

The requirements for the tool are:

  • It must be an online, interactive tool that meets the goals and objectives provided in this document.

  • It must be in open source code.

  • It must include documentation of all data sources used.

  • It must include a description of how the tool can be updated with additional data from other agencies

  • The solver must provide recommendations to enhance government insights through improvements in data collection.
The judges are: Anne Rung, GSA associate administrator for Governmentwide Policy; Craig Flynn, director of the Travel Policy Division in OGP; Kris Rowley, GSA Office of the Chief Information Officer; Tim Burke, GSA Federal Acquisition Service; Jon Bearscove, GSA FAS Region 10, Sonny Hashmi acting chief information officer. The GSA technical advisor is Sam Gilliland of Sabre Technologies.

GSA said it will award the winner a $35,000 prize, while the second place developer would receive $30,000 and the honorable mention developer would get $25,000. Developers have until April 11 to submit their tool. GSA will announce the winner on May 9.

GSA recently received the prestigious Harvard Innovations in American Government award from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for the Challenge.gov platform.

The platform currently features more than 300 ongoing competitions with prize money ranging from $100,000 to non-monetary prizes.

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